How the G.O.P. Primary for Mayor Turned 2 Friends Into Bitter Rivals

The two Republicans operating for mayor of New York City was once pals. They are each first-time candidates, lengthy photographs for the job and tabloid fixtures who perk up after they see a information digital camera.

And now they’re at battle.

At an in-person debate this spring, Fernando Mateo, a restaurateur, threatened his previous pal Curtis Sliwa, the founding father of the Guardian Angels, for what he mentioned have been assaults on his character and warned that he had damaging details about his opponent.

“I have enough dirt to cover your body 18 feet over,” Mr. Mateo mentioned.

Mr. Sliwa had known as Mr. Mateo a “de Blasio Republican” and accused him of breaking the legislation in his fund-raising efforts for Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat.

“Shame on you,” Mr. Mateo responded, calling the allegations “fake news.”

They will meet once more on Wednesday, this time nearly, at the first official Republican debate, which can be broadcast on NY1.

The Democratic major for mayor has grown more and more damaging, with Andrew Yang, the former presidential hopeful, and Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, calling for investigations into one another’s fund-raising. But they don’t have anything on the Republicans, who regardless of their slim probability of profitable City Hall appear intent on destroying one another in a scorched-earth major marketing campaign.

It might be simple to overlook that not that way back, New York City elected back-to-back Republican mayors — Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg — and that the Republican Party held its personal in giant sections of the metropolis outdoors Manhattan. Today the celebration’s political energy has weakened to the level the place the Democratic major, not the common election, will virtually actually determine who can be the subsequent mayor.

But the Republicans are nonetheless battling one another to change into the face of the celebration. Mr. Sliwa, whose menacing crime-fighting squads made him a star in the 1980s, is hoping that his public profile and law-and-order message, coming at a time of rising crime, may give him the edge each in the June 22 Republican major and in the common election in November.

Mr. Sliwa rode the subway for 24 hours straight final week, carrying his signature crimson beret and calling for 5,000 extra law enforcement officials to stem violence in the system. Instead of defunding the police, he mentioned, he needs to “re-fund the police.”

In the 168th Street station in Manhattan, he greeted two officers.

“You might be our savior,” one officer informed him.

Mr. Sliwa, who joined the Republican Party solely a yr in the past, has introduced a showman’s zest to the race. He was trailed by cameras as he introduced a cake with a large meatball on prime of it to Gracie Mansion to taunt Mr. de Blasio on his 60th birthday — he was protesting the metropolis’s resolution to take away Columbus Day from the college calendar — and he hosted a mask-burning ceremony whereas a disco band sang “Burn Baby Burn.”

Mr. Mateo, who was born in the Dominican Republic, is specializing in his story as an immigrant. He needs to change into the metropolis’s first Hispanic mayor and has known as for overturning bail reform and conserving the jail at Rikers Island open.

Republican leaders are break up between the candidates. The Manhattan, Queens and Bronx events endorsed Mr. Mateo. The Staten Island and Brooklyn events backed Mr. Sliwa.

Mr. Mateo is main in fund-raising: He has raised about $520,000 and says he’ll qualify for public matching funds quickly. (A candidate should elevate not less than $250,000 in contributions of $250 or much less from not less than 1,000 metropolis residents to qualify.). Mr. Sliwa has raised about $315,000.

There is little polling to know the place the candidates stand. Mr. Sliwa was main amongst older registered Republican voters with 40 %, in comparison with 6 % for Mr. Mateo, in an AARP-Siena ballot in April. But about 44 % of voters have been undecided.

Mr. Sliwa rode the subways for 24 hours not too long ago.Credit…Andrew Seng for The New York Times

Both face an uphill battle in a metropolis the place Democrats outnumber Republicans by greater than six to 1. Republicans have misplaced affect in the metropolis since Mr. Giuliani was elected in 1993 and Mr. Bloomberg in 2001. Today the celebration has solely a handful of elected officers in the metropolis, with most from Staten Island, together with James S. Oddo, the borough president, and Representative Nicole Malliotakis.

Even Joseph J. Lhota, the Republican candidate for mayor who misplaced to Mr. de Blasio in 2013, left the celebration. He is supporting Kathryn Garcia, the metropolis’s former sanitation commissioner and a Democrat, for mayor.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who’s in his second time period, mentioned this week that the Republicans had no probability of succeeding him.

“It’s a side show honestly,” he mentioned. “They don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning a general election, so God bless them.”

But some Republicans see a chance. Joseph Borelli, a Republican metropolis councilman from Staten Island, mentioned the ambiance in the metropolis resembles the early 1990s, when Mr. Giuliani received City Hall amid rising crime and issues over high quality of life.

“Just look at how the Democrats made a 180-degree turn on policing the minute there was a horrific shooting in Times Square,” he mentioned. “They went from defund the police to ‘of course the police are part of the solution’ in less time than it takes to drive down Broadway.”

Mr. Sliwa, 67, based the Guardian Angels in 1979 after working as an evening supervisor at a McDonald’s in the Bronx. The Angels’ patrols grabbed headlines, although Mr. Sliwa later confessed that they faked crimes for publicity.

Understand the N.Y.C. Mayoral Race

Who’s Running for Mayor? There are greater than a dozen folks nonetheless in the race to change into New York City’s subsequent mayor, and the major can be held on June 22. Here’s a rundown of the candidates.Get to Know the Candidates: We requested main candidates for mayor questions on every thing from police reform and local weather change to their favourite bagel order and exercise routine.What is Ranked-Choice Voting? New York City started utilizing ranked-choice voting for major elections this yr, and voters will have the ability to record as much as 5 candidates so as of choice. Confused? We may also help.

Mr. Sliwa was shot 5 occasions in the 1990s, arrested not less than 77 occasions, testified at the federal trial for John A. Gotti, a Mafia boss, and married 4 occasions. He had two kids with Melinda Katz, now the Queens district lawyer, earlier than marrying his present spouse, Nancy, who’s a member of the Guardian Angels.

He was a radio host and led the Reform Party of New York State earlier than formally turning into a Republican final yr. He has acquired criticism for a lot of his public feedback over the years, together with saying in 2015 that he wished to have intercourse with the speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito.

His major marketing campaign difficulty, past public security, is property tax reform — a urgent difficulty for many householders outdoors Manhattan. Mr. Sliwa mentioned he additionally needs voters to know that he has a compassionate facet, rescuing cats that he retains in his house on the Upper West Side.

“I live in a 320-square-foot studio apartment with one toilet and 15 rescue cats,” he mentioned in an interview. “There’s a lot of litter changing.”

Mr. Mateo, 63, moved to New York City as a baby, dropped out of college at 14 and began a carpet enterprise. He later bought concerned in civic points, creating teams to advocate for livery drivers and bodega house owners, and he grew to become a serious political donor.

Mr. Mateo advocated for livery drivers and bodega house owners.Credit…Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

He is maybe finest identified for his “Toys for Guns” program in the 1990s, when he supplied toy retailer reward certificates in change for weapons. It bought three,000 weapons off New York streets, was replicated in different cities and made him a hero in the nationwide information media.

In 2018, he confronted damaging headlines over his waterfront restaurant La Marina, in the Inwood neighborhood in Manhattan, the place there have been complaints about medication and noise, and he was linked to a scandal involving fund-raising by Mr. de Blasio.

Mr. Mateo now runs one other restaurant, Zona de Cuba in the Bronx, and says he works there in the evenings after lengthy days on the marketing campaign path — a degree of satisfaction.

“I’m making a living or I’m campaigning — I’m the only candidate that does that,” he mentioned in an interview. “I know what it’s like to meet payroll.”

His major proposal is a teen jobs program, which he calls “Alpha Track,” to maintain college students out of bother.

But for all of his constructive discuss his life story and giving younger New Yorkers the identical alternatives, he’s additionally taking purpose at Mr. Sliwa, who has mentioned he didn’t vote for President Donald J. Trump in 2020.

“I’m the only true Republican in this race,” Mr. Mateo mentioned. “I voted for Trump twice.”

He mentioned their feud started when he entered the race, and Mr. Sliwa started to assault him.

“I thought that Curtis was my friend,” he mentioned. “I carpeted his first apartment.”